Friday, February 04, 2011

Interesting post about D.C. Circuit nominee

Before Kathy Williams' confirmation hearing, the judiciary committee heard from D.C. Circuit nominee Caitlin Halligan. There's an interesting post from the BLT on how that hearing went. Here's the intro:

Caitlin Halligan followed an often-used script today during her confirmation hearing for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, telling a Senate committee that if confirmed, she would defer to Supreme Court precedent and to the Framers' intent.

But her hour-long testimony made clear that Republicans are laying the ground for possible opposition to her nomination. They questioned Halligan, a longtime New York appellate lawyer, about statements she’s made or signed on to, and they renewed a long-running debate about whether the influential D.C. Circuit has more judges than it needs.

If confirmed, Halligan, 44, would quickly be on the short list for the next Democratic nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. Four sitting justices are alumni of the D.C. Circuit, and she is President Barack Obama’s first nominee for the D.C. Circuit.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, warned it might not be easy for Halligan to get there.

“This committee has multiple precedents establishing a heightened level of scrutiny given to nominees for the Court of Appeals of the D.C. Circuit,” Grassley said at the opening of Halligan’s hearing. He listed President George W. Bush’s six nominees for the court — only four of whom were confirmed. “All had a difficult and lengthy confirmation process. This included delays, filibusters, multiple hearings and other forms of obstruction,” he said.

Democrats responded by lauding Halligan’s credentials, including as New York’s state solicitor general and as head of the appellate practice at Weil, Gotshal & Manges. Early in her career, she clerked for former D.C. Circuit Chief Judge Patricia Wald and for Justice Stephen Breyer. She’s now general counsel in the Manhattan district attorney’s office.

“The remarkable thing about Caitlin’s experience is her unique depth of knowledge about the practicalities of government,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Under questioning, Halligan, pictured above, kept her answers short and emphasized judicial modesty. She called the Constitution an “enduring” document and echoed conservative jurists’ language about originalism. “If faced with a constitutional question, a judge has to look to the text and attempt to understand the original intent behind those words,” she said.

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